HNIC Star Selector - Conference Finals - Game 1 Preview - Canucks vs Sharks
One Western Conference Final pre-series article dubbed this match up as the battle of the psyches insinuating that the Canucks and Sharks history of playoff collapses would somehow play into prominence over the course of the next seven games. While no one can debate both franchise's have suffered through their fare share of stinging playoff defeats there is an argument to be made here that each organization has made a significant culture shift during the first two rounds of this years Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both have rebounded from blowing a 3-0 series lead by winning game 7 against formable competition. For Vancouver, defeating Chicago represents a playoff hurdle that Roberto Luongo equated to Team Canada's Gold medal victory during the 2010 Winter Olympics while in defeating Detroit San Jose finally rewarded the Shark tank faithful with a clutch performance in a must win atmosphere. With all due respect to the Eastern Conference Finalists this series match up represents the most difficult opponent for each franchise in their Stanley Cup aspirations.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Vancouver and San Jose finished 1 - 2 respectively in the tough Western Conference regular season standings.
2. Strong home ice play. The Canucks posted a 27-9-5 home record while San Jose wasn't too far behind at 25-11-5.
3. Deep down the middle. Both have elite level centres highlighted by the much anticipated Joe Thornton versus Ryan Kesler match up.
4. Balanced scoring. Coaches Todd McLellan and Alain Vigneault each enjoy the luxury of scoring beyond their first two lines.
From a Star Selector perspective this series is an InGamer's dream as there is a plethora of talent to choose from. My best advice to you is stay engaged and do not fall in love with the same five players as there will be plenty of momentum shifts throughout the course of this series. So let's beak down some player selections with the help of some 'Jaws' characters and quotes.
Quint, "This Shark, swallow you whole."
Much like the great white in Jaws there are a few stars that have emerged through the first two rounds that can strike instant fear into the opposition. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler is the first to come to mind. Not only is he the leading playoff scorer but by dominating the face-off circle and playing physical he scores you star selector points almost every time he steps on the ice. Joe Thornton is playing a very similar style for San Jose and is playing his career best playoff hockey leading the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals.
Mayor Vaughn, "Fellows, let's be reasonable, huh? This is not the time or the place to perform some kind of a half-assed autopsy on a fish."
It is easy to get caught up in stat lines and start questioning whether or not to include Daniel & Henrik Sedin, Dany Heatley or Patrick Marleau in your starting lineup. Granted the aforementioned list of stars under performed during the first two rounds of this years playoffs but each has had a few days to refocus and prepare. Keep in mind that everyone from this group sees a tremendous amount of power play minutes and all are way too talented not to elevate their respective game.
Brody: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
All right so this quote is a little bit of a stretch but come on I can't recite famous Jaws lines without including Brody's famous observation. So in this spirit, I give some other players that must be considered for your starting five. Goalies, Roberto Luongo & Antti Niemi, are both solid choices as goals in this series will be tough to come by. Rookie Logan Couture, second in Shark's playoff scoring, is playing well beyond his experience level and Canucks defenceman, Alex Edler, anchors Vancouver's power play.
This series is going to be a tough fought battle which will more than likely go the distance! Good luck with your picks and thanks for playing Star Selector!